Saturday, July 1, 2017

Stef's "So Good You Can't Put It Down" Book Reviews Summer 2017 Reading Challenges! - First Update

June was a busy reading month for me! It is now July 1! Let's see how I did. :)

Here are my page numbers as of now:

Beach Blondes by Katherine Applegate - 296 out of 721

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer - 45 out of 323

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling - 123 out of 228

Beware of possible spoilers! 

As you can see, I surpassed by Beach Blondes June goal (on June 22), of which I am very proud! :D

Let me explain something about this book that I have discovered during my journey with it. It is actually three books in one, which explains the thickness of it. It consists of the novels June Dreams, July's Promise, and August Magic. From my understanding, these were all individually released in 1995 and then rereleased as a full book in 2008, and boy does it ever date itself. I mean, the kids don't use cell phones! They use PAY PHONES and listen to their CD COLLECTIONS! On Goodreads there are adults on their commenting about remembering reading this when they were kids and wanting to read it again, making me feel so late to the party! I mean, 1995 was one thing. I was a five-year-old back then. But I feel odd reading this now as an adult given the teenage subject matter and think that if I jumped in when it came out in 2008 it would be more relevant for me because I WAS A TEENAGER THEN.

However, reading it for the first time as an adult helps me appreciate it better for what it is. It also makes me feel wiser than these kids. :P

You know, this book is surprising me. It is way better than I expected and clearly deserves a better cover photo. There is definitely more to this book than meets the eye given some of its serious subject matter and the cutesy photo of a bunch of blonde girls taking a selfie on the beach does not do it justice by any means. It's false advertising. So far there has been only one scene that I recall of the girls hanging out on the beach, and it's only two of them laying on the sand. In fact, throughout the whole book, there is only one blonde and very few female characters to begin with. Another is brunette, another is Latina (whom isn't described as being blonde), and this other girl, a minor character, is a redhead.

However, even though I do enjoy its engaging tale, I do find some flaws with it regardless. Okay so the plot surrounds an awkward teenage girl named Summer Smith from Bloomington, Minnesota (who constantly reminds the reader and the other characters of her origins, much to her own embarrassment) who is invited by her Aunt Mallory to stay at her home in Crab Claw Key in Florida for the summer. Mallory, a romance novelist now that she has divorced her husband, embarks on a book tour for the week and leaves poor sweet Summer with her reclusive cousin Diana, who doesn't make it a secret that she doesn't want Summer there.

Diana Olan (the brunette) is clearly the most interesting character in this book by far. At first she comes across this typical bitchy teenage mean girl, making me dread her stereotypical behavior, but then as we learn more about her, we realize that something deeper is going on with her. This carries the story for me. She actually got an emotional reaction of out of me when I read it in the car on the way back from a family day trip to the Borgata in Atlantic City. I want to read more about her and how she is going to overcome her troubles. I admire Applegate for taking the strides she does with this character and her plot. It's what makes this book different from the other teenage beach novels I have read.

However, the main focus is on Summer, who all of a sudden is attracting practically every boy in town even though back in Minnesota she was invisible to the opposite sex. These encounters were foretold to her by a tarot card reader while on the plane there, by the way. 

She first meets Seth Warner, who randomly kisses her in the airport but turns out has a delusional ex-girlfriend (Lianne, the redhead) that believes that they are still in a relationship and that Seth is lying and then for some reason he gets mad at Summer for being upset about this; then Diver, this hippie guy who has sworn off girls and lives in the stilt house Diana throws Summer in, only wears one pair of swim trunks (his singular attire), and declares that the neighboring pelican's name is Frank; and finally Adam Merrick, the wealthy senator's son who uses the typical lines that only an arrogant player with money, looks, and power would utter and originally dated Diana in the summer prior and has now set his sights on Summer.

I mean, seriously, all of the boys in this book are a little strange. Summer has no true winner here.

One of my biggest problems with this book is how philosophical these kids are. It makes sense when Diver does this, because it's his character, but the rest of them do this too. They don't speak like normal teenagers but instead all have these existential moments where they talk deeply about life and claim that Summer is experiencing all of this romance because apparently Crab Claw Key is so mystic that people forget who they are while they're there. Summer attempts to transform into a different person and do things she normally wouldn't, making her confused about her actions afterward, and they all attribute this to the setting itself.

Another thing I can't stand are the video blog chapters. Scattered throughout the book are chapters called "Video Blog," for which Summer pretty much provides a stream of consciousness monologue for Jennifer, her best friend back home who is vacationing in California. These basically serve as Summer's reflections of what is happening in the story, and more insufferably, act as recaps of what we have already just read. These chapters aren't needed. I already know how Summer is feeling about her situation considering I am following her as the main character and listen to all of these existential discussions she has. These are reprieves from the action and I use them as a place to stop reading for the time being, but they just get in the way. The book would be shortened significantly if these chapters were removed.

I want to move onto the other books, but I don't want to leave out Marquez. Marquez is a Cuban-American girl who goes by her last name because Maria (her first) is too common and Esmeralda (her middle) is a bit too too, I guess. She befriends Summer, gets her a job at the Crab 'n' Conch, a restaurant that is apparently the world's worst place to work according to the kids, and remains her sole companion throughout the book. She is no-nonsense and serves as the comic relief, but yet has issues of her own that are slowly unraveling. Applegate also uses her as an opportunity to discuss immigration, which is still very relevant to our world today, so that's interesting. 

So now I'm waiting on seeing what is coming up for these kids, such as what Adam is going to do next to win Summer's heart back (let's just say that by page 296 he has REALLY pissed her off...an understatement at best). I am also really wondering what Diana is going to do as she plummets deeper and deeper into her sorrows. I've actually decided to take a small break from this book because I was reading it nonstop one week and needed a breather from its heavy premise, so I chose to devote this time to continue the other books on my list.

Then I have my comedienne ladies, Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer! I haven't worked on my Roseanne Barr book yet because I was so engrossed by these books. Plus, they are library books, so I need to prioritize.

I had to return these books to Sprague Library on June 29. Because it is a college library, their policy is that only students and faculty can renew books. During the summer they are closed on Fridays and Sundays and are closed today this week as well, so I have to wait until Monday to go back to retrieve them so I can resume my reading once again. :P

This was the first time that returning books to the library gave me withdrawals!

So far I am liking Kaling's book more than Schumer's, which I guess is evidenced by my page progression above and is funny because I initially thought it was going to be the other way around.

I'm halfway through it, about to start Part 3. This is thanks to her short, quick read chapters of simple stories and tips. It's both lightweight and lighthearted and takes us into Kaling's life, about which she is completely honest and is her intention with the book. She occasionally makes references to her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), so I want to read that one now too. I also kinda like the cover design better. No offense to Schumer's nude backside, but Kaling's mint-colored cover relaxes me. 

She also happens to mention my current celebrity crush, the super hot (and hairy) Australian actor Jai Courtney, on Page 44! I'm on a Suicide Squad (2016) kick lately, in which he portrays Captain Boomerang. She says that her friend Ike (Barinholtz) knows him, and I was like, "Yeah, he does! They worked on Suicide Squad together!" I never knew who Courtney was beforehand, so I'm thrilled that I discovered him just in time to understand her reference. It's so ironic and I got so excited when I saw it! I was going to take a photo of the paragraph dedicated to him for this blog, but didn't plan on not having access to it by the time I published this (Grr!), so I'll try to supply it for my next reading update. I'm almost done reading her book anyway. It's my favorite book of the summer so far. :)

As for Schumer's book, for some reason I am getting more melancholy vibes from her and I don't really know why, given that hers and Kaling's books are basically the same concept. Don't get me wrong, it's still a funny book. 

Various aspects of her book have stayed with me. For example, in one chapter she describes her one and only one night stand. Normally I am against one night stands 100%, but her story made me see them in a new perspective. 

In the next chapter she talks about being an introvert, which seems highly unlikely for someone with her personality, but it made me realize that my own introverted side isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for female writers like ourselves. She and Kaling talk about their work process, which is a huge reason why I am reading their books. I like reading about successful women writers and how they got to where they are today as they deal with their inner and outer struggles. It makes them more human and relatable and makes me feel less alone. 

Schumer I feel often gets a bad rep, but I have gained some more respect for her after reading what I did about her so far in her book. She comes across a good person, especially when she talks about her riches to rags to riches background and how she gives money just because she wants to. I'm looking forward to reading more of her story. :)

Throughout the month of June I took all three of these books on my daily walks to a local park or schoolyard, both of which are usually void of people or at least consist of very few, where I would sit at a vacant picnic table and just read in the sunlight or the occasional windy/rainy day. These are my most serene moments of the summer.

I highly recommend. :)

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